A Cinematic Caution

I begin to suspect that I should return to not watching movies as a basic life rule.  At least based on my limited viewing of late, there seems to be such a dearth of movies with any sort of message or meaning that would be cause for celebration and lifting up. 

That being said, here is my philosophy on film and cinema.  If a movie purports to be proclaiming a theme or a message, then I’m going to evaluate the movie on exactly what I see it to be communicating.  It’s as simple as that.  I don’t believe that ‘feel-good’ movies exist in some sort of vacuum wherein the ‘feel-goodiness’ of them is not something to analyze and evaluate.  I believe that if I feel good, there are reasons for it.  If a movie wants to make me feel good by watching it, then there is a method by which they’re going to accomplish this.  That method is subject to analysis & criticism as necessary.

When I went to see Broken Arrow or Face/Off or Con Air, I wasn’t expecting there to be some deep underlying message.  They’re action flicks.  They make us feel good through an adrenalin rush and a simplified encounter between varying degrees of good and evil.  They can be good or bad in how that adrenalin rush is approached, the quality of the acting (to a certain degree), and how outrageous the plot is (willing suspension of disbelief does have limitations!).  But I wouldn’t think to criticize Con Air for philosophical or theological issues unless the movie itself invited that sort of critique based on off-hand dialogue or other situations. 

I enjoy a good mindless movie every now and then.  Shaun of the Dead – the portions I saw of it – seemed to be a hilarious example of such a movie.  I don’t care for mindless movies that rely on steady streams of profanity and nudity to achieve their entertainment, mind you.  You don’t have to be vulgar to be entertaining (or mindless, actually).  But there are plenty of movies that can and should be enjoyed on a very non-intellectual level.  You know they’re bad.  They don’t pretend they aren’t.  It’s a match made in heaven.

No, the ones that give me stomach cramps are the movies that aspire to something more.  They want an emotional response from the viewer.  They have a message to convey.  They are Important pieces of work.  These are the movies that I find myself more and more disgusted by.  These are the movies that frustrate me to no end, either because their message is completely contrary to my beliefs and the beliefs of millions of people like me, or because they are a tragically awful attempt to represent (or exploit) the beliefs of myself and those millions of other people.

And I’ll admit that I’m more analytical than some people.  My life experiences and educational background have equipped me and trained me to examine things critically, looking past the surface, weighing and testing what I find.  Partly, this is the writer in me – the lazy perfectionist who finds it easier to criticize than to take the time and effort necessary to craft something worthy of my own.  I’m not your average movie-goer, and this allows me to look at/for things that someone who sees movies on a regular basis might forget to look for, or see as unnecessary.  Movies are more than just entertainment to me, and I treat them that way.

So, if I seem critical, I am.  Messengers have important jobs.  And messages are important to analyze and evaluate.  Sitting back and just allowing your emotions to be manipulated without examining how it’s being accomplished is dangerous and irresponsible, ultimately. 

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